Picture this – you’re going about your normal workday. After a busy morning of meetings in your second-floor office, you decide to go outside and get some fresh air. You step into the elevator and push the ground floor button. The doors close, the elevator starts to descend… and then jolts to a stop between floors. You wait a few seconds, frantically push the buttons, and nothing happens. You realize you are trapped in the elevator.
With millions of people using them multiple times each day, elevators are the busiest, most popular form of transportation in the world. While they are also one of the safest forms of transportation, from time to time, members of the riding public can occasionally find themselves stuck in an elevator.
In the unlikely event that this was to happen to you, it’s important to know precisely what to do – and, perhaps even more importantly – precisely what not to do in this situation. Let’s take a closer look at elevator entrapments, and what members of the riding public, building managers, and other building personnel must do to ensure that nobody gets hurt.
What if I Get Trapped in an Elevator?
If you ever find yourself trapped in an elevator, the first thing to remember is not to panic. There is no danger of the elevator running out of air – the ventilation systems installed in the elevator system guarantee a steady supply of fresh, breathable air, even in the event of entrapment.
Despite the stories you may have heard about elevators falling, the likelihood of an elevator falling is incredibly low (in fact, because of the way an elevator is designed, it is far more likely to ‘fall up’ than to fall down!). But – in the extremely rare event that you do find yourself in a falling elevator, you can’t jump at the last second to save yourself. Thankfully, the odds of someone being caught in a falling elevator are so slim that the “jump” is essentially a non-issue.
The great majority of the time, the reason the elevator stopped in the first place is because of a building-wide power outage or because the elevator’s safety features kicked in. All elevators are equipped with sophisticated monitoring systems equipped to detect irregularities in functioning and speed. Should it detect a problem, its braking system will automatically engage and hold the elevator in a safe position until a skilled elevator technician can arrive on the scene to assess the situation, free the trapped passengers, and then diagnose and correct the issue that caused it to stop.
Do not attempt to force the doors open, do not pry open the escape hatch in the ceiling, and do not interfere with any other parts of the elevator’s equipment. Especially in a situation where a power outage caused an elevator to stall, the elevator could re-start abruptly at any moment. Passengers attempting to free themselves from stuck elevators have been hurt and even killed when the power came back on and the elevator started moving again unexpectedly.
One piece of equipment that is there for use by passengers is the elevator’s emergency phone or communication device. If you are trapped inside an elevator, immediately call for help. This device will automatically connect you with building security, emergency services, or an elevator service company. All have people ready to answer calls 24 hours a day.
You can also press the elevator’s alarm bell, which produces a loud ringing noise others in the building can hear; this will alert them to the fact that you are stuck.
The Protocol for Building Managers
If you are a building manager who receives notice that someone is trapped in your building’s elevator, your first responsibility will be to contact emergency services or your elevator service company immediately. If there is a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency services department right away. After giving them information about where the building is and what floor of the building the elevator is on, reassure the trapped person that they are not in any danger, they must not panic, and they must not attempt to free themselves or interfere with the elevator equipment until a professional arrives. Communicating with the people inside will help relieve their anxiety.
Once the elevator constructor or emergency services arrives to free the trapped occupants, you and your staff may be asked to accompany them to the stalled elevator and/or the elevator machine room. Once you’ve given them the information they need, it’s time to sit back and let them do the work they’ve been trained to do.
Professionals: They’re Trained for This
While elevators are extremely safe for the riding public, they contain complex and potentially dangerous machinery behind the scenes. The industry’s most qualified elevator constructors participate in years of training and education through a nationally recognized registered apprenticeship program like the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP). NEIEP apprentices must complete 4+ years of classroom courses along with 8,000 hours of supervised on-the-job learning under the supervision of an experienced mechanic – and pass a capstone mechanic exam – to achieve status as a mechanic.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has created extensive elevator safety codes that vary by jurisdiction. IUEC elevator constructors are knowledgeable about how to interpret and apply these code requirements to ensure the safety and well-being of the riding public. Don’t put your elevator equipment and the people who use it at risk by allowing individuals without the proper education and experience to service it.
Remember – if you ever find yourself trapped in an elevator, don’t panic, and don’t ever attempt to get out of it yourself! Use the emergency phone/communication device to speak with building security, emergency personnel, or a dispatcher from the elevator service company, and someone will be on their way immediately to help you safely exit the elevator and resume your daily routine.
For building managers, your primary responsibility is to ensure that the professionals and/or emergency services can get to where they need to be to assist the trapped passengers. It’s important to know what to do in an entrapment situation, but it’s even more important to do everything you can to prevent one from happening in the first place. The best way to do this? Make sure your elevator systems are inspected, tested, and serviced regularly, including receiving the recommended preventive periodic maintenance. And don’t forget to test the alarm bell in your elevator!
Contact ElevatorInfo to be connected with a reliable elevator service company who can help ensure your conveyance systems are running the way they should.